Joan, Jane and a ray of hope for all golden girls

There hasn’t been much to cheer up this dismally wet and chilly summer, so thank heavens for the wonderful Joan Collins and Jane Fonda.

At a time when every middle-aged person I know is fretting about the recession and the prospect of a miserable old age on an inadequate pension, it’s been left to these two indefatigable septuagenarians to show the rest of us how to live.

They’ve each published books this month and the common theme is that it’s possible to hit 70 and still have enormous fun.

Jane Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival
Joan Collins attends Royal Ascot Ladies Day on June 17, 2010

Living it up: Septuagenarians Jane Fonda on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival and Joan Collins enjoying a day out at Ascot

In between ranting about the indiscipline of the obese and the ill-manners of the young, our Joanie has left us in no doubt that you can be 78 and still be slim, fit and fiendishly glamorous.

Whether anyone can really look that youthful at her age without cosmetic surgery — which she insists she hasn’t had — is beside the point: she’s determined to remain a player.

Jane Fonda, meanwhile, has made it her mission, at 73, to explain in explicit detail how fellow ‘seniors’, as she calls them, can have the same sort of mind-blowing sex as she claims to enjoy regularly.

She’s had a relatively modest amount of plastic surgery, compared with many stars of her vintage, and until recently was taking testosterone — ‘it makes a huge difference if your libido has dropped’ — before stopping when she found it was giving her acne.

Vanity prevailed and the testosterone had to go. Undeterred, she suggests any number of other tricks, while also revealing that she and her partner, record producer Richard Perry, dance together each evening before bed.

Even if you haven’t the energy for all this yourself — and frankly, those of us a quarter of a century younger are left feeling tired just reading about it — you have to admire hers. When I was a mere 20 or 30-something, it seemed to me that three-score years and ten was a respectable age at which to shuffle towards the soothing twilit slopes of Velcro-fastened shoes and Easi-fit waistbands.

But now that I’m the same age as Joan was when she did her Playboy centrefold while starring in Dynasty (49), I find I’m hanging on to her every word. I want less of the spider-veined granny cheeks and more of the Collins smooth-skinned glamour; less of the Thora thighs and more of the Fonda frolics.

What’s so invigorating about Joan and Jane is their refusal to go quietly. Despite being part of the generation before feminism, they’ve always worked ferociously hard and have fearlessly defied convention. They’ve taken risks and as a result have made some horrendous mistakes.

Fonda’s life has been marked both by ill-chosen politics and ill-chosen husbands. She married three times, subjugating herself each time to unsuitable men who used her.

Joan Collins (right) at around the time of her Playboy centrefold with Dynasty  co-stars John Forsythe and Linda Evans

Joan Collins (right) at around the time of her Playboy centrefold with Dynasty co-stars John Forsythe and Linda Evans

Joan, for her part, married five times, but her first four husbands were disasters, from the abusive Maxwell Reed — who was furious when she wouldn’t sleep with a lecherous Arab for £10,000 while he watched — to the money-grabbing, womanising Peter Holm.

It’s only now, in their eighth decade, that she and Fonda seem to have found lasting love with men who don’t seek to dominate or belittle them.

In an era when we’re so terrified of ageing that women in their 20s reach for the Botox at the merest suspicion of a wrinkle, these gutsy Hollywood stars are bounding into the boxing ring for life’s final rounds, done up to the nines and raring to go. They’ve got more sex appeal than Nancy Dell’Olio and Madonna put together, and infinitely more pizzazz.

You can complain that it’s all very well for them; they’ve been blessed with good genes and plenty of money. That’s true, but what really sets them apart is their refusal to stop fighting.

Most women have a tendency to timidity. We often choose to avoid confrontation, preferring to keep the peace. Those who do go against the grain may gain some respect, but they’re rarely considered glamorous. So we learn that it’s not womanly to be feisty or independent.

Which is why Fonda and Collins deserve our respect. They will not be written off as ageing has-beens. They will not go gently into that good night. They’re too busy putting all their energy into one last prolonged and glorious hurrah. And even if we ourselves can never quite be them, at least they give us hope.

 

‘What do you think of my nails?’ I asked my husband, having finally  got round to painting them with Particuliere, Chanel’s highly fashionable shade of pale coffee sludge.

‘Makes you look like you’ve got cyanosis,’ he said cheerfully, adding helpfully when he saw my blank look: ‘In other words, almost completely deoxygenated.’

 

Why Parenting is a class issue

The new initiative to give ‘anti-gang’ lessons to primary school children and teach them the horrific consequences of knife crime is to be welcomed.

But the single most important change we should be making to our curriculum is teaching teenagers how to be good parents.

It’s the only way to break the cycle of family breakdown and all its attendant social problems.

Only this week the Left-wing think-tank Demos published a report highlighting how inadequate parenting during the teenage years was one of  the biggest causes of binge drinking.

It’s a year since Frank Field called for a GCSE in parenting to be introduced to our schools yet, shamefully, we seem no nearer to making that a reality.

Instead, much fuss has been made about the importance of studying History and the Classics. Admirable enough, but surely teaching children how to be good parents would bring about a far greater revolution.

Let’s concentrate on restoring modern civilisation before worrying too much about how the ancients did it.

 
Wrong image for M&S: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Wrong image for M&S;: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Missing the Marks

After dumping Twiggy and Dannii Minogue, Marks & Spencer has used 24-year-old model and actress Rosie  Huntington-Whiteley — recently voted the world’s sexiest woman — in its new ad campaign.

It’s a mistake.

Women who aspire to look like Rosie wouldn’t be seen dead in M&S.

Meanwhile, those of us old enough to be her mum realise we can never look like her, so now we won’t go there either.

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I wasn’t at all surprised to read that William and Kate had slipped into their local cinema to watch The Inbetweeners Movie, as the TV series that inspired it manages to be both filthily funny and endearingly innocent.

Early takings are so high that it’s apparently on course to be the most successful British comedy ever, baffling the critics but not the parents of teenagers who, in my experience — once they’d got over the shock of the foul language and juvenile lavatorial humour — guiltily enjoy the TV show almost as much as their children.

Set in a comprehensive, it focuses on four sixth-form boys who are obsessed with every revolting bodily function they can think of — but especially with losing their virginity, while pretending to have already slept with more women than they can count.

They are very ordinary, very likeable and, I suspect, far more representative of Britain’s youngsters than the rioters.

 

What is it with Foreign Secretaries?

First we learn that Condoleezza Rice, while doing the American equivalent of the job as Secretary of State, had a bit of a thing for her British counterpart Jack Straw.

Then we’re told that Hillary Clinton’s admiration of her opposite number David Miliband veered beyond the maternal.

And now it seems Mad Dog Colonel Gaddafi was in love with Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright — to the point where he asked one journalist to pass on a message to her suggesting that if Albright reciprocated his passion, she should wear green in her next television appearance.

Still, I suppose it’s better than learning that he fancied William Hague.

 

If only our nurses followed Florence

How sad that nurses today feel the need to wear ‘Do Not Disturb’ uniforms while doing their drug rounds.

With all the extra training they receive nowadays, I suppose it’s too much to hope that they might be asked to read Florence Nightingale’s Notes On Nursing, as fresh today as when they were written in 1859.

‘The word nursing... has been limited to signify little more than the administration of medicines,’ she wrote. ‘It ought to signify the proper use of fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet and the proper selection and administration of diet — all at the least expense of vital power to the patient.’

Her absolute priority was the well-being of the sick. For too many of today’s nurses, that seems to be at best an annoyance and at worst an irrelevance

 

A post-holiday riddle: Why is it that in France, land of slavish adherence to the EU (or so we are told), supermarkets sell vegetables of all shapes and sizes that actually taste the way they’re supposed to, while in Britain we are presented with uniform rows of shiny, perfect produce that tastes of . . . absolutely nothing?

 

The new series of Doctor Who on Saturday was a total letdown — confusing, ludicrous and ultimately pointless. Since Russell T Davies’s departure, the Doctor has lost the plot. Exterminate!